O.C. Jury convicts Irvine 11

The Irvine-11 group of students in courtroom with their attorney.One of the student with tearsAn Orange County jury found 10 Muslim students guilty on two counts of misdemeanor to conspire and disrupt a speech by the Israeli ambassador at UC Irvine last winter.

The students, seven from UC Irvine and three from UC Riverside, showed no emotion as Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson announced the verdict. Another student’s case was dismissed. He is currently serving 40 hours of community service at a soup kitchen.

The trial began Sept. 11, and drew protesters who contend that the students were being harassed for their views.

They were charged with standing up and shouting prepared statements at Ambassador Michael Oren, using him as proxy to accuse Israel of state-sponsored brutality and murder committed against Palestinians.

Because they were convicted of misdemeanors, none of the students face jail time. Instead, they were sentenced to three years of informal probation and 56 hours of community service. They were also ordered to pay fines.

The group, now known as the Irvine 11 drew national attention after university officials decided to press charges, accusing them of violating Oren’s First Amendment rights.

Oren spoke in front of 500 spectators to give a speech on U.S.-Israeli relations in February 2010.

At issue was whose First Amendment rights were violated.

The defense contended that the students, all members of the Muslim Student Union, were within their rights to protest what they believe is a systematic policy of oppression practiced by the Jewish state.

But the prosecution contended that the students violated Oren’s rights by preventing him from speaking.

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The district attorney built the charges by using video of the event and collecting a chain of e-mail exchanges prior to Oren’s speech.

According to an e-mail released to the public by the D.A.’s Office, “It is our duty to show the people who are going to listen that this man is a war criminal, and we will not allow a platform for him to spread lies on our campus, whether it be at UCI or any other campus around the nation.”

They plan to appeal their conviction on the grounds that they were exercising their First Amendment rights.

Feb. 8, 2010

Eleven UCI students disrupt Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on campus.  The students left the room, but were arrested and threatened with suspension and expulsion.

April 16, 2011

All 11 students pled not guilty to charges of misdemeanor conspiracy to commit crime and misdemeanor disruption of a meeting. Prosecutors claimed the event was planned by UCI’s Muslim Student Union.

Sept. 23, 2011

Ten of the Irvine 11 were found guilty of both charges and sentenced to probation No students received jail time. They plan to appeal the conviction.

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